Best of GDC 2019: The 10 Coolest Games and Gadgets

Managing Editor
Updated

SAN FRANCISCO - The annual Game Developers Conference is a chance for game makers to network, learn and show off their latest creations, but it also brings lots of exciting news for the everyday gamer. That was especially true at GDC 2019, where Google shook the gaming world by unveiling its potentially revolutionary Stadia game-streaming service.

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesCredit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

We also got a look at a brand new Oculus Rift S headset, as well as a trove of VR and indie games that should keep gamers of all tastes and platforms happy well throughout the year. After days of scouring the Moscone Center for the coolest, most innovative and straight up weirdest games, gadgets and tech of GDC, here are our 10 favorites.

Google Stadia

Google finally unveiled its grand vision for gaming at GDC, and it could change how we play forever. Stadia is a fully cloud-based gaming platform that lets you play big-budget titles on just about any device with a Chrome browser, from smartphones to low-power PCs. Our early hands-on tests with titles such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Doom felt nearly comparable to playing on a console or gaming PC, and the service promises to offer 4K gameplay at up to 60 frames per second.

But where Stadia may truly revolutionize gaming lies in its integration with YouTube. You can be watching for a trailer for a game and click a button to start playing it within minutes, and streamers can have their viewers hop into a match with them right from their browsers.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Stadia, and it’s too early to call the service a console killer until we see a more concrete game lineup and pricing for when it arrives later this year. But if Google’s vision for delivering the hottest blockbuster games to any device pans out, it could put the likes of Sony and Microsoft on notice. - Mike Andronico

Release Date: TBD 2019

Stranger Things 3: The Game

Remember when retro games tried to adapt TV shows? They didn’t always get the tone right, but the better ones were a ton of fun anyway. That’s the vibe that Stranger Things 3: The Game is going for, and it’s an unqualified success. The game will launch on the very same day as Season 3 of Stranger Things on Netflix, and let you play through the events in the new episodes firsthand.

Credit: NintendoCredit: NintendoBut instead of a dark, brooding horror game, you’ll find an isometric brawler, replete with belligerent greasers, switch puzzles and whirlwind attacks. The game’s presentation is top-notch, but it also has the potential for some real depth, since you’ll take control of 12 characters, each with different abilities. – Marshall Honorof

Release Date: July 4
Platforms:
Switch

Oculus Rift S

The $399 Oculus Rift S is more of a refresh than a full overhaul of the original Rift, but it brings some significant upgrades to Oculus’ flagship VR headset. In addition to improved display resolution and better ergonomics, you’ll be able to enjoy full room tracking without the need for any physical sensors, thanks to the Rift S’ built-in Oculus Insight technology.

And thanks to the new passthrough+ feature, you’ll be able to take a look at your real-life surroundings without taking the headset off. Couple that with full compatibility with the expansive library of existing Rift games and apps, and you’ve got one of the best jumping-on points yet for PC-based VR. - Mike Andronico

Release Date: Spring 2019

Asgard’s Wrath

Virtual reality games tend to lean towards bite-sized experiences, but Asgard’s Wrath wants to buck that trend by delivering a AAA-quality, 30-hour adventure. Set in a Norse mythology universe, this sprawling action role-playing game lets you play as both a human-sized mortal and a gigantic god, providing two unique senses of scale as you go from battling Krakens in the ocean to taking on mortal rivals in the arena.

Credit: Sanzaru GamesCredit: Sanzaru GamesBut what really makes Asgard’s Wrath stand out is its immensely satisfying combat, which brings Dark Souls-like depth and precision to a more physical plane by challenging you to slice, parry and dodge with your actual arms. - Mike Andronico

Release Date: TBD 2019
Platforms:
Oculus Rift

MORE: Google Stadia Hands-On Roundup: Will Google Really Kill The Console?

Cardpocalypse

If you spent your lunch breaks in elementary school sneaking in rounds of Magic: The Gathering or the Pokémon Trading Card Game, Cardpocalypse may seem strangely familiar. You play as Jess: a feisty tween who’s obsessed with the latest card game craze. At her elementary school, every conflict is resolved with a round of Power Pets, which means that she’ll have to scrounge, trade and compete to earn effective new cards and build the perfect deck.

Credit: GambrinousCredit: GambrinousWhat sets Cardpocalypse apart from a lot of similar digital CCGs is that it’s a story-driven, single-player experience, which means your deck will grow organically and your strategies will become more complex naturally over time. – Marshall Honorof

Release Date: TBD 2019

Audica

Developed by music game veterans Harmonix, Audica has the potential to follow in Beat Saber’s footsteps to become the next great virtual reality rhythm game. With a virtual blaster in each hand, you’ll shoot moving targets to the rhythm of bumping electronic tracks all while being immersed in a slick sci-fi backdrop.

Credit HarmonixCredit HarmonixAs the game ramps up, you’ll quickly bounce between fast-moving targets, shoot at different angles and bash away incoming debris, creating an addictingly challenging rhythm that’ll have you bobbing around in style -- and burning a few calories along the way - Mike Andronico

Release Date: Available Now (Early Access)
Platforms:
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift

Atomicrops

Imagine the feeling of Zen calm you get when you play a farming simulator. Now, imagine the feeling of intense focus you get when you play a roguelike action game. Put them together, and you’ve got Atomicrops.

Credit: AtomicropsCredit: AtomicropsThis pixel-art indie game casts you as a farmer who must grow crops, fend off hungry pests and explore the world in search of new seeds. You’re not likely to last all five (yes, five) seasons on your first run, armed with only a small plot of land and a single-shot rifle. But as you purchase permanent upgrades between runs, you’ll culture amazing plants, face down tough bosses and even marry charming townsfolk. – Marshall Honorof

Release Date: TBD 2019
Platforms:
PC

MORE: GDC Highlights: Google Stadia, Oculus Rift S and More

Katana Zero

Airtight 2D action; unforgiving one-hit-kill difficulty; striking neon-drenched pixel art — Katana Zero has all of the ingredients needed to become the Nintendo Switch’s next big hit. This slick sidescroller gives you a vast arsenal of stylish moves, letting you slice and dodge your way through each challenging combat scenario however you see fit.

Credit: Devolver DigitalCredit: Devolver DigitalAll of this addictingly punishing action is backed up by a compelling, mysterious story complete with interactive dialogue, as well as an irresistible electronic soundtrack. - Mike Andronico

Release Date: April 18
Platforms:
Switch, PC

Neo Cab

Some people wear their emotions on their sleeves, but cab driver Lina wears hers in a bracelet. As one of the only remaining human cab drivers in the futuristic city of Los Ojos, California, Lina needs to earn a living while managing a dramatic turn of events in her personal life.

Credit: Fellow TravellerCredit: Fellow TravellerBut as she converses with her passengers, a special bracelet on Lina’s wrist can track her emotions – and those emotions might just get the better of her, depending on how she interacts with customers. Most of the gameplay in Neo Cab is based around conversation and story choices, but strong writing and a chill, offbeat vibe make the game hard to put down. –Marshall Honorof

Release Date: TBD 2019
Platforms:
Switch, PC

Sparklite

Every classic game from Castlevania to Mega Man has gotten a roguelike homage, so why not The Legend of Zelda? In Sparklite, you play as an adventurer whose airship crashes in a constantly shifting landscape. With little health and no special skills, she’s ill-equipped to deal with the game’s tricky enemies, dangerous terrain and enormous bosses.

Credit: Red Blue GamesCredit: Red Blue GamesBut almost everything in the game drops a precious resource called Sparklite, which she can use to buy permanent upgrades every time she falls in battle. From Sparklite’s colorful pixel art to its pleasing push-and-pull between reward and punishment, Sparklite is immediately addicting, and thoroughly satisfying, even after short play sessions. The game won’t be as big as a Zelda title, but it may have just as much heart. – Marshall Honorof

Release Date: Fall 2019
Platforms:
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac

Credit: Tom's Guide